Tuesday, June 12, 2012
The Grounds of Alexandria
I was about 9 years old when we moved into our house, which at the time had beautiful gardens lovingly tended by the retired couple that lived here before us. I would spend hours outside, chasing my chickens to try and catch them and pet them (which they probably hated me for) and pretending I had my own secret garden - it was one of my favourite movies. I have some great memories of those times, and I have to say that is what I thought of when I visited The Grounds in Alexandria.
Located right next door to 4143 at the James Barnes, the gardens outside feel a world away from the industrial surroundings, yet the warehouse space feels just right. I was surprised at how busy they were for a Monday lunchtime, but the 15 minute wait for a table allowed us to scope out the veggie patches, say hello to the chickens, and take some gorgeous photos.
In fact, I found it hard to stop taking photos of the beautiful space, and now sorting through the 90-odd snaps, I’d be back there tomorrow if I could. Yep, it’s that good. If you were facing a longer wait (I hear on weekends the wait time can be up to an hour!) you can grab a take away coffee and enjoy it at one of the lovely garden tables. Flowers are planted in all manner of vessels, from recycled cans to cute retro wagons. I wish this was my backyard.
We were shown to our table inside and I ordered a long black coffee and was treated to one of the best coffees I've had in a while, probably the best I've had since visiting St Ali in Melbourne and possibly one of the best I've had in Sydney ever. I usually like my coffee very strong and quite sweet, but this was such a smooth blend, I could have skipped the sugar entirely.
Steve ordered the Chicken Schnitzel, which came in a very generous serving with an interesting slaw on the side - red cabbage and sultanas studded through it. The extra-crunchy coating on the schnitzel looked like it had cornflakes in it - an interesting twist. The chicken could have been a little more juicy, but was delicious nonetheless.
A side of chips turned out to be a very wise decision, as they were kind of a stand out! I'm continually frustrated by restaurants charging up to $10 these days for a side of soggy fries, but these were earth-shatteringly crisp, perfectly cooked and definitely worth a try.
It was a tough decision for me as I liked the look of, practically everything on the menu, but went for the slow-braised lamb shoulder sandwich on our waitresses recommendation. The meat was fall-apart tender and the sandwich was stuffed with lettuce, roasted capsicum, house-made pesto and apparently spiced eggplant, although unfortunately I couldn't really taste it in there.
"The Bakery" as they called it was a cabinet at the counter filled with all manner of delicious looking sweet treats from tarts to brownies, carrot cake to banana bread. After much deliberation, I settled on an almond and rhubarb tart, and Steve chose a strawberry and white chocolate muffin. They were the perfect end to the meal, with a rustic look that suited the place perfectly. The tarts come from Luxe Bakery in Newtown, which is also on the list as a must-visit.
The weekday crowd was a quite a mix of different people - from suits on their lunch break to a table of young creatives catching up, a few yuppie mums with their kids on the balcony and at least one mother-daughter catch up. I can see why this place is busy though, because it ticks all the boxes - great food, coffee, atmosphere and prices - and those things are worth waiting for. I'm looking forward to coming back for brunch in the near future - there's some brioche french toast with my name on it!
The Grounds of Alexandria, Building 7A, 2 Huntley St Alexandria
The Grounds of Alexandria